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Colonel Chris Hadfield’s Eloquence Unites Science and Art

Colonel Chris Hadfield’s Eloquence Unites Science and Art

“Good morning, Earth!” That is how Colonel Chris Hadfield—writing on Twitter—woke up the world every day while living for five months aboard the International Space Station. Through his 21-years as an astronaut, three spaceflights and 2600 orbits of Earth, Colonel Hadfield has become a worldwide sensation, harnessing the power of social media to make outer space accessible to millions and infusing a sense of wonder into our collective consciousness not felt since humanity first walked on the Moon. Called “the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong,” Colonel Hadfield continues to bring the marvels of science and space travel to everyone he encounters. Colonel Hadfield recently appeared in Belleville, where the local press caught up with him:

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian renaissance man, much decorated as a scientist and man of action and exploration; but the celebrated astronaut, the first and only Canadian to command a spaceship, is admired for his down-to-earthness, a delightful irony for a man whose mark was made largely for his feats above the Earth and within the international space program.

Colonel Hadfield is also a dynamically eloquent speaker who takes audiences with him as he re-imagines his three trips into space as Canada’s first fully trained space shuttle crew member and his work as the commander of the International Space Station.

Away from Canada for 26 years, Colonel Hadfield returned home with his wife and quickly discovered what an “amazing precious place” it is.

“To return to Canada, you really see what a beautiful construct our country is,” Colonel Hadfield said during a memorable evening of celebration at the new Hastings Field House that drew over 1,000 people. The Sarnia native used the launch theme to give the audience a sense of how “crazy powerful” the space shuttle is at liftoff, accelerating from 4,828 kilometres an hour to over 27,358 kilometres an hour in six minutes.

After eight minutes and 42 seconds the main engines shut off.

“You think: “we made it … then there’s just a great inrush of joy,” he said.

But it was also a presentation that reflected the humbleness Hadfield and his space station colleagues felt as they looked down on Earth from the vastness of space; awed by its robust and fragile beauty, scenes that dazzled the eye as much as the mind.

Hadfield caught many of those images with his camera and shared them globally through social media. He speaks about those images with the heart of a poet.

And it all started with the launch, something Hadfield had dreamed about as a nine-year-old after watching the first men walk on the moon, recreating those space exploits inside a Quaker Oats 215 box which he fashioned into a simulator.

That was a far cry from the massive engines that hurtle the space shuttle into space.

“It is a living, breathing beast of a thing” blasting up through the speed of sound in 40 seconds, 160,000 feet above the Earth in two minutes, burning 12 tons of fuel a second and ramping up its power during those first handful of minutes.

Colonel Hadfield talked about life as a “sequence of small decisions, tens of thousands of little decisions.” His journey into space began as that young boy bowled over by the “outrageous but magnificent” moon landing.

He spoke of the need to inspire youth and talked delightedly about the connection he made with the Coalition for Music Education and the Music Monday performance he took part in from the Space Station joining the Barenaked Ladies and 700,000 students.

“That may be the most significant thing I do in my life because of the rippling effect … Art is how we talk to each other at primitive levels.”

Sharing photos from space images also had a quantum impact.

“You are going through the universe with the world. It is humblingly beautiful to see the world that way.”

They orbited every 90 minutes.

“By the thousandth time you see the planet with an intimacy.”

“It was amazing to see the reaction from people,” Hadfield added.

Bill Freeman/Inside Belleville/July, 2015